The NBA will allow scouts to watch Cooper Flagg and other elite high school prospects during the In-Season Tournament in Las Vegas, according to a memo to teams obtained by ESPN.
As part of a growing partnership with Nike, NBA teams will be permitted to attend five Nike EYBL Scholastic Showcase Games on Dec. 8-9, including a Dec. 8 game at T-Mobile Arena between Montverde Academy and Link Academy, which will be broadcast on ESPNU (8 p.m. PT). Flagg, the No. 1 prospect in high school basketball — committed to Duke — will match up with Texas-commit Tre Johnson, who is ranked No. 4 in the 2024 class by ESPN.
The NBA In-Season tournament will be conducted at T-Mobile on Dec. 7 and 9, so NBA teams will already be in Las Vegas.
This is one of several high school events certified by the NBA in a memo sent to teams Nov. 20, which includes the Sunshine Prep Showcase at IMG Academy (Dec. 14-17 in Bradenton, Florida), the Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 15-21 in Las Vegas), the City of Palms Classic (Dec. 18-23 in Fort Myers, Florida), the HoopHall Classic (Jan. 11-15, Springfield, Massachusetts), the Throne National Championship (March 28-31 in New York), and the High School Boys Basketball Nationals (April 4-6, Brownsburg, Indiana), formerly known as the Geico Nationals.
NBA front offices have long pushed the NBA league office to allow increased access to evaluate elite prospects before they enter college.
In the past, NBA teams were not allowed to attend any high school team events because of the “no-contact” rules, which were put in place in the David Stern era to keep NBA scouts out of high school gyms.
“It sends the wrong message for them to be there,” Stern said in 2005. “Where does it stop?”
Those rules are gradually being loosened, in part because several elite prospects in recent years, such as Shaedon Sharpe, Mitchell Robinson and Darius Bazley, elected to forgo playing competitive basketball in the year between graduating high school and becoming eligible for the NBA draft. Other top prospects, like James Wiseman and Darius Garland, played in only a few college games because of eligibility concerns or injury. That forced NBA teams to make difficult decisions on draft night with incomplete scouting information because they previously were not allowed to evaluate them in live action during their high school team season.
The NBA has made a significant push into the youth basketball market in the past year through their NBA App, creating partnerships with the Nike EYBL Peach Jam and Nike Nationals in July, as well as broadcasting nearly every game played by 2023 No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama in France last season. Four of the five EYBL Scholastic Showcase Games will stream on the NBA App, with three games re-airing on NBATV.
As part of the event, the six high school teams — AZ Compass, IMG Academy, Veritas Academy, Orangeville Prep, Montverde and Link Academy, will also participate in NBA life skills seminars, coaching development sessions and NBA Cares community outreach activities, as well as attend the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals.
Nike merged with the NIBC this season to create a high school basketball superconference, called the EYBL Scholastic, featuring 14 of the top prep schools in North America. It's an extension of Nike's grassroots (also known as AAU) EYBL platform played in the spring and summer; and will feature 84 games and 15 events across the 2023-24 season, 30 of which will be broadcast on ESPN platforms, culminating with the High School Boys Basketball Nationals in early April.